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Brushing Too Hard Causes Sensitive Teeth

Dentists in Survey Say Acidic Foods and Drinks Also Lead to Sensitive Teeth
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 10, 2009 -- Brushing your teeth too hard and consumption of acidic food and beverages are the leading contributors of sensitive teeth, according to a nationwide survey of dentists.

One-third of 700 dentists surveyed by the Academy of General Dentistry say acidic foods and beverages are the most common contributors to tooth sensitivity, followed by toothbrushing technique.

Sensitive teeth is a condition that's a result of nerve irritation in the tooth. It's characterized by discomfort or sharp and sudden pain in one or more teeth and is often set off by hot or cold foods or drinks, breathing in cold air, or pressure on the teeth. The condition affects at least 40 million American adults, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.

Van B. Hayward, DMD, professor in the department of oral rehabilitation in the School of Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia, says aggressive toothbrushing and consumption of acidic substances can wear down the enamel on teeth and also affect the gums.

"When the protective layer of enamel erodes or gum lines recede, a softer tissue in your teeth called dentin can be left exposed," Hayward says in a news release. "Dentin connects to the tooth's inner nerve center, so when it is unprotected, the nerve center can be left unshielded and vulnerable to sensations, including pain."

The survey also showed that dentists say that certain toothpastes, mouthwashes, tooth-whitening products, broken or cracked teeth, bulimia, and acid reflux also contribute to enamel erosion and tooth sensitivity.

The Academy of General Dentistry recommends the following steps be taken to alleviate sensitive teeth:

  • Switch to a desensitizing toothpaste.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Practice good oral hygiene, which means flossing regularly and brushing at least twice a day for two or three minutes.
  • Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, brush gently in a circular motion, and hold the toothbrush in your fingertips -- not in the palm of your hand.
  • Avoid acidic foods and drinks (like soft drinks and citrus foods).

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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